Carson-Newman University Class of 2018
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Recipient
Tell us about your career and what you do now. How did you choose your career? Why did you go into this particular field?
My career is in education. I currently serve as the Alumni Relations Coordinator at Carson-Newman University and am working towards my Masters in Higher Education at Purdue University. I have been in my current position, serving alumni and friends of Carson-Newman (C-N), since June of 2019. The year following my graduation from C-N, I taught Family and Consumer Sciences at the secondary level. It wasn’t until I was in undergrad, that I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I found the passion and care with which my professors taught inside and outside of the classroom, contagious. I knew, through watching them, that I wanted to have a career where my job was more than just a job, but a calling. I found that calling in the classroom and although I loved my time as a high school teacher, I always knew deep within I wanted to work with college students. Everyone deserved someone who will be their champion, just like my professors and C-N community had been for me, and so through my hopeful career in higher education I will be able to champion other students to dream big dreams that make great impact on their campus and communities.
What do you remember most about receiving the Sullivan Award? Were you surprised? What do you think you did to receive the award?
I was so surprised. During the ceremony, I remember listening as the President talked vaguely about the recipient and I thought all of the things they were involved in sounded so familiar, but I was not putting two and two together. It wasn’t until after he said my name a second time that I realized what was happening. I knew very little about the award but was aware that it was an extreme honor and it was such a sweet day to share with my professors, friends and those that came to support me. As I have learned more about the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation and the other award recipients that came before and have followed me, I am still in awe. Receiving the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award was such a great way to end my senior year at C-N and it is something I am extremely grateful for and proud of.
Who nominated you for the Sullivan award? What was your relationship like with that person? What is your relationship like now?
I was nominated by various faculty and staff at Carson-Newman University. I think one of the most beautiful things about coming to C-N is the relationships you are able to build with faculty and staff. It really is a family and so I was extremely honored to be nominated by those who have taught, mentored and loved me. Now working on staff here, I pinch myself each time there is a “seat at the table” for me in meetings, conversations and events I attend with them. I hope I never take for granted their time, energy and help first in my undergraduate career and now in my professional career.
Are you involved in any community outreach now? What service opportunities have you been involved with in the past? What about now? How have these impacted you?
I currently am involved with various organizations and ministries through my church and the university. I also serve on the Advisory Board for the Carson-Newman Center for Community Engagement. When I was a student at C-N, I was a Faith and Justice Scholar and volunteered at various after-school programs and non-profits. Through each service opportunity I was reminded how grateful I am for a community that supports each other. I may have only been spending an hour volunteering and it didn’t feel like a great sacrifice, but those that were there were so grateful and made sure I knew my help mattered. I love seeing my community support its most vulnerable populations in ways that are helpful and uplifting. It made such an impact on the way I view those around me and causes me to be more intentional in helping and caring for others.
The Foundation promotes positive social change in its programming and overall message. What are some social issues that matter most to you today?
Over the past several months, I have found myself heartbroken over the racial injustice in our country. I want to be a voice for change and good in my community and so I am educating myself through reading and listening and believing the life experiences of people of color. I know that my life experience is much different and so I am learning to grieve with those grieve and walk alongside and consciously my friends of color. I know that change will not happen overnight and so I am committing myself to supporting positive social change and educating myself and others on the racial injustices of our world.
If pressed to give one piece of advice to younger people, what would you tell them? What have you learned that you hope they will learn?
If I had to give one piece of advice it would be that, it’s okay to not always know exactly what you want to do. There are so many people who believe in you and want to help you. You don’t have to carry the weight of the whole world on your shoulders. It’s okay to ask questions and make connections with people, especially during your time of need. There is a quote I love that says, “If I have seen further than others it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” And so that would be my advice, build a community of support around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on people as you learn, grow and advance in school and your career.